Long read: Who is qualified to make a world?

In search of the magic of maps.

If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

PS3: 12 Games of Christmas

Tumbling down the chimney.

Another good thing about Christmas is that you can kiss people by holding a twig with leaves above their heads, made all the more likely by the enormous vat of incredibly pungent mulled wine stewing in the kitchen. Similarly smile-worthy is that yes there are games on PS3 to buy this year, despite what James with his rival console says in the comments section while picking his nose and flicking it at his equally spotty friend.

It may be largely thanks to a very alluring cross-platform Christmas line-up, but Sony is not without its exclusives, especially now it has finally clamped SingStar PS3 down for release this side of 2008. There is also the gorgeous-looking Ratchet & Clank to shout about, unique Eye of Judgement to, er, look at, and those timed star-players Unreal Tournament III and Haze.

We will also be telling you about a couple of sumptuous and frankly unmissable PlayStation Network games, too, because we feel we ought to and not because we are trying to make the numbers up a bit, promise. Look out for our unprecedented and enormously enjoyable facts, too.

Eye of Judgement

Magic attack. Presumably from that chap in the middle.

Novelty is something Eye of Judgement very recognisably has, but underneath it all is a deep, statistical and compelling game that shows why card battling games have stood the test of time.

Each intricately illustrated card brings with it countless advantages and disadvantages you will have to carefully consider for a wide variety of situations. Think of it as a little like chess, only where you scan your lifeless pieces in and watch them come to life majestically on your telly. Options should only increase with time, too, as collecting booster packs and additional decks vastly expands your army.

Another reason to fork out GBP 60 on Eye of Judgement is because it comes bundled with the PlayStation Eye, a freshly created piece of hardware four times more powerful than its predecessor and more keenly supported by Sony. Or is it? Our review should be up soon, at which point you'll know whether it's 12 or really 11.

Dead pixels: Sony claims the Eye has four times the resolution and twice the frame-rate of the original EyeToy. It also looks like the head of a pigeon conjoined with a hair straightener.


Busy, busy, bumble bees.

Drugs can do all sorts of things, like give make you run faster than everyone else in the Olympics and resign from tennis. But bad things also happen - Ben Johnson had to give back his Gold Medal and was publicly disgraced. Free Radical liked this concept and built a game around it.

You are an ex-soldier of global military company Mantle, who pumps its troops full of Nectar so they are stronger, faster and tougher than anyone else. But, as you know, it also leaves them vulnerable, and you and your rebel forces will have to use your brains to exploit this. While high, a Mantle soldier will let you approach because your audacity confuses them - providing you with an opportunity to steal their weapon and smash it back in their chops. Or you can play dead and they will simply assume that is what you are, until you pop up behind them and shoot their face. Think them dead.

It is an interesting prospect with a strong team behind it, and this self-described "thinking man's game" also has four-player co-operative mode. And it is exclusive. For a while.

Shouting: When we were at UbiDays, Rob Yescombe, Haze's "quite loud" writer man, was blatantly chatting up one of the UbiDays booth girls right in front of us, and seemed to be doing quite well but then had to stop to show off the game.

Assassin's Creed

"Oh woe is me, I have a weird neck and you are in a dress."

Here we are, perched on a rooftop surveying a crowd of grubby and toothless mongrels ambling about their daily Jerusalem-in-the-middle-ages business, scouring their faces for the person we have to kill. There. Off we go, integrated with the crowd, moving inconspicuously closer. Our blade slips silently into the open, then we spring, muscles exploding familiarly as we brutally and efficiently destroy our target.

Now the real test begins. Our legs pound breathlessly as we plough through unforgiving crowds still numb with the lack of DualShock. Pursuing guards are gaining ground so we turn and face them, anticipating their heavy lunges before replying with a deft and fatal riposte. More appear, so we leap up to beams connecting buildings and launch ourselves like gymnasts further and further skywards. Finally, back where birds make their nests, we relax, preparing ourselves to do it all over again.

Kill me now: The big old secret underpinning Assassin's Creed is that Altair, hay bounding assassin, is actually a 40-something American scientist, trapped in the past, leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.

LocoRoco Cocoreccho!

Drown as many as you can.

Rolling singing blobs around around a level was so fresh, charming and original on PSP that we told you about it with gay abandon while smiling. But none of that stopped us being a little lost for words when the PS3 version was unveiled as an Interactive Screensaver. How very silly (and untrue) that was.

Cocoreccho only has one map and that is all it needs. For all the reasons the original hit the right notes so does this, as you use your Sixaxis to tilt your singing LocoRoco to the end of the beautifully drawn level, avoiding all sorts of obstacles as you go. Even on your fourth go you will discover hidden treats and rarely feel bored, highlighting why this is worth every penny of its GBP 1.99 price tag. Which is so ludicrously little anyway that only a complete miser would turn it down.

Up above, you're in love: Mui Muis can be found in certain areas of the level, and appear to be completely unreachable. But they're not!

Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction

Soon they will be dancing to a different beat.

This could be the first game to deliver the "you are playing a Pixar movie experience", boasted developer Insomniac in September, and it does look bloody lovely, never grinding to a halt despite ladles of activity being poured into every scene. But nothing much has changed - Ratchet & Clank are still Ratchet & Clank, just with all sorts of next-generation plastic surgery.

But the wheel is still the wheel and it works well because it does what it does. Ratchet & Clank was fun and still is; you can make your enemies disco-dance or turn them into penguins, before smashing them to pieces with your wrench and collecting all the nuts and bolts littered around. Games like LEGO Star Wars took hefty doses of inspiration from Ratchet & Clank, but now Insomniac is ready to show us, once again, how platforming should be done.

Cattish: Ratchet is a fictional animal called a Lombax, which is a bit like a bobcat. Except he can fire guns and talk. And go in space.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Frank had always been worst at hide and seek.

Style can be learnt, but you know when something effortlessly oozes charm that it had it by the bucket-load to begin with. Call of Duty 4 has it; you will notice it when you cower behind cover that your hungry and fearless enemies are blown away bullet-by-bullet, or when you are stalking through believable Middle-Eastern streets amid destroyed buildings and rubble from you most recent negotiations.

You will believe it when you get sucked into a story the designers want to feel like "an entire series of 24", one not afraid to tackle contemporary politics and make each set-piece and action sequence feel like its big-screen counterpart would. Finally you will accept it when you venture online and take on your friends in tactical or free-for-all battles, eventually moving up ranks and being rewarded for your hard work.

Although: You'll probably be rubbish at it.